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By Margaret Wise

SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 16, 1999 - Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---The Fiji Islands business community yesterday warned the government against imposing a national minimum wage, saying it could drastically hit the economy, the Fiji Times reports.

And they urged government not to intervene "too much" on the price of the labor market, saying the risk of increased redundancies was greater if employers found the wage level too high to meet.

Government yesterday announced that a draft bill was being prepared, among other things, to consolidate the laws relating to working conditions. This would include provisions relating to minimum wages.

Himmat Lodhia, President of the Fiji Retailers Association, said it was a good idea if it increased productivity and efficiency.

"But under the current regime we have already witnessed low productivity," Mr. Lodhia said.

"Government needs to sit down with employers and negotiate on a national minimum wage that will benefit everyone. If they set that as too high for employers then some people may need to go home - become redundant.

"We need to take a practical approach and look at both the supply and demand.

"Should they implement a national minimum wage, then they should scrap the wage board and the wage regulations."

In outlining the government's policies at the opening of Parliament yesterday, President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara said [Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's Fiji Labour Party-led coalition government] was committed to a minimum national living wage to support a reasonable standard of living.

The government has not put a figure to its proposal but if this has to be worked out according to the poverty line, the individuals should be earning more than F$ 120 (US$ 61.63) a week.

The garment industry, one of the country's biggest employers, pays its workers an average of F$ 60 (US$ 30.82) a week.

Title -- 2184 ECONOMY: Fiji PM seeks minimum wage Date -- 16 June 1999 Byline -- Margaret Wise Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Fiji Times, 16/6/99 Copyright -- FT Status -- Abridged

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